State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) left, is introducing a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin.(Photo: Scott Bauer/AP)

MADISON – Democrats pushed for legalizing medical marijuana Monday, hoping to build on momentum after the Republican speaker of the Assembly said he was open to the idea.

“We’re not criminals. We no longer want to live in the shadows of society,” said Steve Acheson, a Gulf War veteran who uses marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and back pain.

At a Capitol news conference, Acheson held up two large bags of drugs that had been prescribed to him over the years. He said marijuana did a better job of treating his symptoms than those drugs did.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) offered two pieces of legislation Monday. One would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The other — a backup measure — would set an advisory referendum on the issue so voters could have their say on whether to make it available to patients.